Friday, August 27, 2010
Chiang Kai-shek 蒋介石
Most of China's contemporary leaders are/were good at calligraphy, and Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi, 1887 – 1975) was one of them.
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. At the age of 18 he went to military training college in Japan. He returned to China in 1911, took part in the uprising that overthrew the Qing Dynasty and became a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (known as the Kuomintang or KMT).
He became the Commandant of Kuomintang's Whampoa Military Academy in 1924 and took Sun Yat-sen's place in the party when the latter died in 1925. In 1928, Chiang led the Northern Expedition to unify the country, becoming China's overall leader. He served as chairman of the National Military Council of the Nationalist Government of the Republic China (ROC) from 1928 to 1948. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the Chinese Communist Party defeated the Nationalists in 1949, forcing the Nationalist government to retreat to Taiwan. Chiang ruled the island with an iron fist as the President of the Republic of China and Director-General of the Kuomintang until his death in 1975.
There is an old Chinese saying that calligraphy is a mirror to a person's character. It is therefore said that the calligraphy of leaders reflects the different characters that ruled the nation, and even their leadership abilities.
Chiang’s style of calligraphy is characterized by strong bones and precise constructions, as neat and orderly as that of Emperor Huizong (1082-1135) of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). On the other hand, differences are apparent. Huizong's ‘slender gold’ style featured thin and sturdy strokes, a poised and graceful style that attracted numerous followers. Chiang's was neat in formation and prudent, but not so creative. His handwriting was always even and orderly, irrespective of whether he was in a high or low mood. This shows he was careful about obeying regulations, but restricted by convention.
Mao Zedong defeated Chiang in military matters and also outperformed him in calligraphy. When writing, Mao let his feelings carry his brush freely, creating a new calligraphic vista. Reading his cursive style handwriting, people immerse themselves in the flow of strokes, slow or fast, dense or not dense. Readers are attracted by the aura his works create, as well as by his presence as the top leader.